Pro’s Pros

Wallace, Hamilton and Prince to lead Pistons playoff charge

Prince, Hamilton, Wallace, "They're all champions, all great at what they do, and you can put them in any order you want."
Sherman/Murdoch/Einstein (NBAE/Getty)
What I saw from the Pistons in their great win over Toronto heading into the holidays was what I envisioned when the season began – a team that was in a fight, at the very least, for a playoff spot and probably a legitimate playoff team. I know there have been performances on what’s been kind of a shakedown cruise that haven’t been pretty, but if you look at the recent body of work – three wins in the last four games, and everybody has a clunker, like the Pistons did against the Clippers – you can see that this team still has talent, toughness and character.

And I especially attribute that to all three of the world champions – Tayshaun Prince, Rip Hamilton and Ben Wallace.

They’re all champions, all great at what they do, and you can put them in any order you want.

Tayshaun over the years has done whatever it takes to win, so his numbers – even though he can fill up a stat sheet with the best – don’t always blow you away. But people don’t like to play against him. He’s an excellent defender and a great chase-you-down shot-blocker as we all know. The near triple-double he had in the overtime win against the Hornets shows you what he’s capable of doing at the top of his game, when he’s called upon to score and do his part when it comes to carrying a team.

He’s so good at fitting in. I don’t think he has a basketball ego that’s easily bruised. He’s a whatever-it-takes kindof guy, but that 28-point, 12-rebound, eight-assist performance – and throw in three blocks – was the Tayshaun Prince that Pistons fans know and love.

When it comes to Rip Hamilton, I believe this: reports of his demise are premature, by at least a few years. This guy has been a certified scorer forever. He’s not even close to being finished. It might be that clearing the air, speaking his peace and dealing with rumors and innuendo and then coming off the bench with a fellow super scorer in Tracy McGrady was the best thing that could have happened. You don’t expect 35 every night, but I expect Rip to be Rip every night from here on out.

The basketball IQ of Tracy McGrady, by the way, when it comes to setting up teammates, is off the charts. And I think Rip really and truly appreciates that. And certainly Will Bynum is an excellent setup man, as well. When both of those guys are out there with Rip, it’s a dream come true as a scorer. Don’t ever forget what Rip can do. I was happy for him and I think there’s a lot more to come.

Finally, what can you say about Ben Wallace that hasn’t already been said. I talked about Big Ben a few weeks ago when he grabbed his 10,000th career rebound, but I love talking about Ben.

He’s his own man. He’s done it his way. His name will be up there with the greatest Pistons of all time. No one is every going to forget Ben Wallace. When you can play game No. 1,000, as Ben did against the Raptors, and not just be a factor but a force, that’s something. He’s so disruptive defensively. Toronto just could not get comfortable..

In game No. 1,000, Ben was still Ben – six rebounds, four on the offensive glass, two steals and three blocks and who knows how many deflections. And he still found time for three assists. His basketball IQ is just one of the many reasons Ben Wallace is a certified Pistons legend. I told him after the game that game 1,000 wasn’t just getting to 1,000 – he was still Ben Wallace and I expect more Ben Wallace in the future.

It’s still a thrill for me to watch these three great players – pro’s pros – do their thing for the Pistons, and as long as they’re doing them like we’ve seen them do it in the past week or so as their play improved, I think you’re going to see this Pistons team make a real run at a playoff spot before it’s all said and done.